As much as your children may not want you to read this post, helping them learn to take responsibility for helping around the house is good for them and for you!
We started our children on chores when they were very young. Picking up their toys after they finished playing with them was their first task. As you would expect, we did most of the work while they tossed in a couple of toys and got all the praise. 🙂
I believe we started our girls with “paying” chores around age 4 or 5. We wanted them to learn early that work equals money. We also wanted opportunities to explain the money principles of giving, saving, and spending with money they had “earned” themselves.
Whether you’re just beginning this process or are thinking about changing things up around your home, here are some questions to guide us through assigning chores to our kids.
1. What chores are age appropriate? Safety first 🙂 so think of chores that a four-year-old (or whatever age your child is) can accomplish easily. Simple tasks like emptying small trash cans or sorting dirty clothes by color/type or putting plates and forks on the table before a meal work well for beginners. There’s a great list of Age-Appropriate Chores at Focus on the Family. Crystal Paine also has a free printable list of Age-Appropriate Chores for Children. Obviously the number of chores will be small while they’re young, and increase as they get older.
2. What do I want to accomplish by assigning chores to my children? In other words, what are your goals in this area? We chose to have our children do certain chores just because they’re part of our family and need to help out. These are typically daily tasks like making their bed, setting the table, and cleaning out the dishwasher. We chose to pay them for responsibilities that tend to be weekly and take a bit more time, like vacuuming their bedroom and cleaning their bathroom. Our goal, then, was two-fold. We want them to realize that it takes all of us working together to keep the house running smoothly. We also wanted them to see the value in working to earn money, which created teachable moments as they learned to handle that money.
As with most things, I love Dave Ramsey’s perspective on this subject!
3. Am I setting my child up for success with their chores? Explain what the chore is, then demonstrate it, then let them do it themselves. I did this with our children for the first several weeks of a new job. It took more of my time at that point, but the payoff is worth it! Think about how long you want their chores to take. Are you assigning them two chores that should take them ten minutes to accomplish? Is that something they can easily handle at their age level or could they take on more jobs? Then remember there are also times for grace – maybe they’re having a hard time one week, so pitch into help them finish, and still pay them. Also consider whether or not you want to change up the chores occasionally. Maybe one task can be passed down to a younger brother or sister after a period of time, or you can change every one’s chores around every few months.
4. How will I track his/her completion of their chores? Some people really like chore charts. I do like the idea of using these with young children when you can post pictures of the few chores they have and they can refer to that to stay on task. (Ruth has links to cute free printable chore charts.) We personally haven’t done that on a regular basis. When they were younger, our girls would just let me know when they were finished, and I’d do a quick perusal to make sure that everything passed inspection. You also should decide what is an acceptable level of “completion” and when a chore needs to be re-done. They probably won’t be excited about having to do a task over, but it’s part of the learning process. Yes, we’re building character, too, and teaching them to be proud of a job well done.
5. What are the rewards and/or consequences of my child doing/not doing their chores? We simply used monetary rewards for chores. For the most part, doing chores has not been an option. What we have done at times – especially with a child who tends to procrastinate – is to give her a deadline for having those chores done. For example, Saturday is our “chore day.” When our girls were younger, they had a deadline (maybe noon) for getting their chores done if they were going to get paid for them. If they weren’t finished by the deadline, they still had to do the chores, but they didn’t get paid for them. (Sometimes the money wasn’t enough motivation to get them to put down the book they were reading and get busy – but I still needed the bathroom cleaned or their bedroom vacuumed.) They’ve rarely been given the opportunity to just not do their chores and not get paid. I’ve heard of other parents who have the kids pay them if their chores aren’t done in a timely manner.
Many lessons can be taught through chores. Responsibility, diligence, stewardship, and orderliness are all life skills that their college roommate – and future spouse – will be grateful that they developed!
Let me know if you have other tips and tricks related to your children and getting chores done!